Contemporary theatre so often preaches the dangers of social media, telling us to put away our phones and connect face to face. It’s something we’ve all heard before, and it gets old fast. Hyperlink, which opened last night at the Firehall Arts Centre, manages to avoid the preachy internet talk and instead creates a dialogue about all aspects of social media.
The performers (TJ Dawe and Itai Erdel), double bass player (Mark Haney), and director (Rachel Peake) created the show to tell their own personal stories, and explore all sides of social media. Right off the bat, Erdel asks the audience to help him create an online dating profile, asking us what we would expect if we read the answers we’d just helped him write. It’s a real question to think about, but Erdel litters the scene with comedy and wit. When Dawe asks him the most important question: whether or not he would change his name to his wife’s upon marrying her, he replies yes… “except if it’s tampon or Hitler or something”.
The two actors, with the occasional help of Haney, then go on to use all sorts of creative ways to explore online politics, friending people on Facebook, meeting people through Craigslist, Pizzagate, crowdfunding, dance crazes, and the origin of spam emails.
In one of the first scenes, TJ Dawe tells the audience about a fugue. It’s a piece of classical music where one instrumental voice plays the main theme and then a variation. Subsequently, a second voice appears over top, playing the original theme and then a variation, followed by a third, and so on. While Dawe is explaining, the bass begins to play Bach’s G Minor fugue under him. Then, to demonstrate what he’s talking about, Dawe cues up this youtube video of the same fugue.
At this point, the scene turns into its own sort of fugue. There is music and projections, and Dawe’s storyling and Erdel’s, all happening at the same time. As Dawe explained, “each voice is independent, but they are all in the same key.”
This is Hyperlink’s strength. While the acting and audience interaction are strong, the structure makes the play memorable and fascinating. Much of the time, it dances like a fugue, interacting with itself and the audience but always returning to the main theme.
Hyperlink may not be saying too much we haven’t heard before, but it’s saying it in a way that’s bound to catch anyone’s attention. Plus, if one of the instrumental voices (if you will) doesn’t interest you, there are so many more to pay attention to. All different, all creative, and all eventually returning to the same theme.
Hyperlink runs October 5 – 18 at the Firehall Arts Centre. Ticket information here.